Thursday, 14 August 2014

Watercolour Comparisons 8 - Blues

I have posted in detail about Ultramarine as a primary Blue. Here I will show comparisons of a larger range of blue watercolours from different manufacturers. I have now added all these and more to my website so you can compare them all here.

Ultramarine (updated February 2018)

Ultramarine has been covered in more depth in a previous post. It is a warm blue so leans toward purple - they all have a hint of red in them. They will mix with a rose or pink to create beautiful clear purples, and with a yellow to make slightly neutralised greens. Here are a number of examples all made with PB29 (though one is a two pigment mix). They vary in how easily they re-wet, the amount of granulation and also slightly in hue. My favourites are Da Vinci and Daniel Smith, though I also like the new Schmincke French Ultramarine added in 2017. These photos are taken under 'sunlight' bulbs with no adjustment for best comparison.

Ultramarine Blue Watercolours: Ultramarine - Art Spectrum, French Ultramarine Blue Deep - Blockx, French Ultramarine Light - Blockx, Ultramarine Blue - Daniel Smith, French Ultramarine - Daniel Smith.

Ultramarine Blue Watercolours: French Ultramarine Permanent (RS) - Da Vinci, Ultramarine Blue - Da Vinci, Ultramarine (Green Shade) - Da Vinci, French Ultramarine - Daler Rowney, Permanent Blue - Daler Rowney.

Ultramarine Blue Watercolours: Ultramarine Light - Holbein, Ultramarine Deep - Holbein, Ultramarine Blue Light - Lukas, Ultramarine Blue Deep - Lukas, Ultramarine Blue - M.Graham.

Ultramarine Blue Watercolours: Ultramarine Light - Mission Gold, Ultramarine Deep - Mission Gold, Ultramarine Blue Deep - Old Holland, Olutramarine Blue - Old Holland, French Ultramarine Light Extra - Old Holland.

Ultramarine Blue Watercolours: Ultramarine Blue - QoR, Ultramarine Deep - Rembrandt, French Ultramarine - Rembrandt, Ultramarine Finest - Schmincke, French Ultramarine - Schmincke (new 2017)

Ultramarine Blue Watercolours: Ultramarine Deep - MaimeriBlu, Lutramarine Light - MaimeriBlu, Ultramarine Deep - Sennelier, French Ultramarine Blue - Senelier, Ultramarine Light - Sennelier.

Ultramarine Blue Watercolours: Ultramarine - St Petersburg, Ultramarine Blue - Schmincke, Ultramarine - White Nights, Ultramarine (Green Shade) Winsor & Newton, French Ultramarine Blue - Winsor & Newton.

Ultramarine Blue Watercolours: Ultramarine Blue Deep - Wallace Seymour.

Cobalt Blue
Closest to a primary blue in that it is neither 'greenish' nor 'purplish', Cobalt is a lovely but expensive pigment. Look for the genuine PB28 for the most beautiful and liftable granulating washes. Some artists prefer cobalt to the deeper Ultramarine as a basic blue. I have it as an 'extra'.

Cobalt Blue W&N, Cobalt Blue ShinHan, Cobalt Blue Hue Derivan, Cobalt Blue AS, Cobalt Blue DS PB28.


Cerulean varies from brand to brand but generally behaves as a cool blue making bright greens. Genuine Cerulean PB35 is slightly warmer than my preferred Cerulean Chromium PB36 DS. It is a rather opaque colour with plenty of granulation and particularly useful for skies and for mixing opaque greens. 

Cerulean Blue Derivan, Cerulean Blue W&N, Cerulean Blue (Hue) Da Vinci, Cerulean Blue DS

Cerulean Genuine DV, Cerulean Blue Chromium DS, Cerulean Blue Deep OH, Cerulean Blue Genuine DV

 Phthalo Blue

A cool and staining blue, phthalo blue is a very common colour in any palette. Available in Green Shade and Red Shade versions, with the green shade being the most common. Phthalo Blue Red Shade is another primary blue option if transparency, staining or non granulating properties are desired.

Winsor Blue W&N, Phthalo Blue GS DS, Phthalo Blue GS DV, Phthalo Blue MG, Richeson Blue (Phthalo) SQ, Phthalo Blue RS DS.

Prussian Blue

Not one of my favourites, Prussian Blue is an alternative blue if a less staining cool blue is desired. Made from PB27. Easily mixed with Phthalo Blue and a warm red.

Prussian Blue MG, Prussian Blue W&N, Prussian Blue DS, Prussian Blue DV

Deep Blues

Genuine Indigo is not light fast but the colour is very popular. It is a deep blue that can be warm or cool depending on the manufacturer. Often made with Indanthrone blue or phthalo blue and black, Da Vinci is unusual as it is made from Prussian Blue and Quinacridone Rose or Violet.
Indanthrone Blue also varies, with Daniel Smith being a warm version and Winsor and Newton a cooler. The S. Quiller example is in between. I don't often use indigo though it is rather lovely with quinacridone gold, but I love using DS Indanthrone Blue in dramatic skies.

Manganese Blue

Sadly most versions of Manganese Blue are hues and don't have the magical granulating characteristics of the genuine pigment, famous for painting snow effects. It is not an essential colour as it is not strongly tinting but quite beautiful.

Other Blues

The first three of these are mixes of little value as far as I can see. Smalt Genuine is an interesting very warm blue - almost a violet, made in a limited edition by Winsor and Newton. Lunar Blue is made of the highly granulating Lunar Black with phthalo blue and is wonderful for special effects. Daniel Smith Mayan Dark Blue is an interesting stormy blue colour thought I prefer Sodalite below, Mayan Blue Genuine did nothing for me! 

Primatek Blues

These Daniel Smith colours are fascinating to try. I love the granulation of Blue Apatite Genuine and Sodalite Genuine, especially for stormy skies or a granulating grey option. Some were very disappointing.

Kyanite Genuine, blue Apitite Genuine, Azurite Genuine, Smalt Genuine, Lapis Lazuli Genuine, Vivianite Genuine, Sodalite Genuine (all Daniel Smith)

So how many to you need?

Depending on the size of your palette, you may work with just one blue such as Ultramarine or Phthalo Blue RS that you warm up or cool down as required, two blues - probably both ultramarine and phthalo blue GS, three if you want to add the granulating and more opaque cerulean, four if you want to add the deep indanthrone blue, 5 if you want a granulating special effects blue....and so it goes on. The blues you choose need to work to make a good range of greens and purples and are very important colours on your palette. I like to have at least three - Ultramarine, Phthalo blue and Cerulean PB36. My basic palette of 20 also has Indanthrone blue, and I have Blue Apatite Genuine and Sodalite genuine and some others as special effect colours in my studio.

Watercolour Comparisons 1 - Ultramarine Blue here
Watercolour Comparisons 2 - mid yellows here
Watercolour Comparisons 3 - Primary Red here
Watercolour Comparisons 4 - Burnt Sienna here
Watercolour Comparisons 5 - Greens (Single Pigment, convenience mixes and special effect) here
Watercolour Comparisons 6 - Reds (Cool, mid and warm) here
Watercolour Comparisons 7 - Yellows (cool mid and warm) here
Watercolour Comparisons 8 - Blues here

Next up - Earth Yellows.